Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder which becomes evident in early childhood or adolescence before the age of 18 years. Tourette syndrome is defined by multiple motor and vocal tics lasting for more than one year. The first symptoms usually are involuntary movements (tics) of the face, arms, limbs or trunk. These tics are frequent, repetitive and rapid. The most common first symptom is a facial tic (eye blink, nose twitch, grimace), and is replaced or added to by other tics of the neck, trunk, and limbs.
These involuntary (outside a person’s control) tics may also be complicated, involving the entire body, such as kicking and stamping. Many persons report what are described as premonitory urges -- the urge to perform a motor activity. Other symptoms such as touching, repetitive thoughts and movements and compulsions can occur.
There are also verbal tics. These verbal tics usually occur with the movements. These vocalizations include grunting, throat clearing, shouting and barking. The verbal tics may also be expressed as coprolalia (the involuntary use of obscene words or socially inappropriate words and phrases) or copropraxia (obscene gestures). Despite widespread publicity, coprolalia/copropraxia is uncommon with tic disorders.*
Some studies have estimated the rate of TS at 6 per 1,000 children.**
I was one of those children.
Though as an adult I have learned to cope with Tourette, I am still plagued by widespread stigma around the disorder. I take medication to reduce my symptoms, though pharmaceuticals are not the only treatment for TS. I have built confidence and self-esteem where there was once a void because of mistreatment and bullying I received as a teenager. I don’t want that to happen to other children, teens, or adults with TS!
Tourette is still misunderstood and stigmatized partially due to Hollywood and other media misrepresentations. Negative representations in the media reinforce negative public attitudes about individuals with TS and wrong information about the disorder
Take a look at this blog post regarding both negative and positive portrayals of Tourette syndrome in the media. The blogger provides a lot of insight of how media plays a role in maintaining and reinforcing the idea that having Tourette syndrome is not okay.
For the month of August, the Tourette Syndrome Association has a display in EHE International’s window at 10 Rockefeller Plaza. Take time to go and see it, log onto TSA’s website and get the facts.
*Source: Tourette Syndrome Association - http://tsa-usa.org
**From the study, “Prevalence of Diagnosed Tourette Syndrome in Children in the United States, 2007” [Read article]